Edited by Peter Dauvergne
Chapter 30: Trade–Environment Politics: The Emerging Role of Regional Trade Agreements
Sikina Jinnah Trade–environment politics is about understanding and managing the impacts of diverging rules and norms in global governance. Despite claims of “win–wins” and more recently “triplewins,” at their heart the underlying goals of trade liberalization and environmental protection are fundamentally at odds.1 Trade liberalization is primarily aimed at increasing economic welfare through the opening and expanding of global markets in goods and services. At its core, trade liberalization aims to increase global production and consumption. The underlying assumption is of course that the more we are able to produce, sell, and consume the better will be our quality of life. On the other hand, environmental degradation is driven by consumption. Consumption is supported by extraction of the earth’s renewable and non-renewable resources. The more we consume the more we degrade. Although reusing and recycling are important elements in mitigating environmental degradation, it is the third element in the popular tripartite slogan – reducing, particularly in the developed world – that must be grappled with if we aim to effectively address environmental degradation. Reducing consumption however is not part of the mainstream discourse of international trade liberalization, and ironically is rare even in contemporary discussions of global environmental problem solving. These discussions tend to shy away from the politically intractable issue of “confronting consumption.”2 Rather, market- and other incentive-based policy tools (“win– wins” for environment and business) have become the en vogue approach to environmental problem solving. For example, emissions trading is central to the Kyoto Protocol’s operation, and...
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